I seriously doubt you’d want to promote the fact that your business was mediocre at best . . . and probably “Pretty sucky” at worst.
But that’s precisely what a hotel in Amsterdam, Holland is doing and . . . it’s doing quite well, thank-you-very-much!
“The WORST HOTEL IN THE WORLD”
If you’re in the hotel business, you’d think that’s got to be the worst review you could get, right? WRONG! It turns out the management of this hotel (The Hans Brinker Hotel) is delighted with that kind of review.
Why? Excellent question. And in the answer is a great lesson in marketing and positioning for YOU to apply to your business.
If You Can’t Be All Things To All People, Be Something Special to a Special Group
This is a fundamental truth in marketing your business or service. Pick a niche. Find a market segment. FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS!!!
The Hans Brinker Hotel is probably NOT the ‘worst’ hotel in the world but, as Seth Godin wrote in his book ‘Edgecrafting’, there’s real value in being seen to be at the extreme edge of whatever you do. In tough times, bargain-priced items and luxury-priced items do well. It’s the ‘middle ground’ items that seem to suffer the most. I’d argue that anytime you have a position that isn’t ‘edgy’ you’re going to be seen as ‘vanilla’ and your competitors will be ‘chocolate chips’ — they’ll stand out . . . against your business or service as a nondescript background.
Now apply that to the way a business is positioned . . . is presented to be something and, at the same time, something it’s not ever going to be.
Realizing that it could never compete on common metrics of Amsterdam’s luxury hotels, it went to the extreme . . . in the opposite direction. With rooms suggesting a military barracks more than a hotel in a top European city, The Hans Brinker Hotel went for the ‘gold’ . . . where the gold is not typically found.
Knowing they would most easily and likely appeal to a decidedly ‘low-cost’ traveler, by accepting themselves, they also uncovered their ‘ideal’ market. Namely, youthful college kids traveling through Europe with a backpack and only a (relatively) few bucks or guilders to spend on their nightly accomodations.
“Tell The Truth . . . It’s Good For Your Soul . . . and Balance Sheet”
By being truthful . . . that it’s not the MOST luxurious hotel in Amsterdam, The Hans Brinker Hotel gained a bizarre benefit . . . it’s actually more rather than less attractive to the very market it’s best designed to attract!
Students seem to relish the ‘bragging’ rights they get simply by having actually stayed at the hotel. Probably like getting a merit badge in the Scouts. Only more roughing it, apparently! This is an essential key to viral marketing of the hotel and, as proof of the efficacy of this, many of the hotel’s guests first learned about it from their friends and other youthful travelers they met during their travels while in Europe.
If You Set Expectations Appropriately . . . People Don’t Get Upset With You
Ok. Let’s say you’re in the target demographic for this crazy hotel — you’re a college student on summer holiday with a backpack and yearning for memories you’ll tell your grandkids about one day. You’ve heard you’re staying at the ‘worst’ hotel in the world when you get to Amersterdam. You’ve heard the rooms are spartan. The food is allegedly only passable, the amenities are often lacking or missing entirely (one ad for the hotel reportedly says, “If you want toilet paper, bring your own!”).
Then, you arrive (no doubt with a roll of TP in your pack) only to find that . . . yes, it’s not the most upscale hotel you’ll ever be in but, y’know what . . . it’s not all THAT bad, either! By helping to lower the prospects’ expectations, The Hans Brinker Hotel has managed to actually make you feel good about the schlock conditions of the place. And, despite your worst fears, the food in the hotel canteen is actually ‘not too bad’. You’re hooked. You’ll tell others you meet in Cologne or Paris or . . . and the future of this little ‘shoddy’ hotel looks brighter and brighter.
The ironic thing is that this hotel’s been growing their guest count and revenues on a steady basis ever since the word started getting out with the help of an advertising man named Erik Kessels. “It wasn’t too challenging . . . the only requirement the owner had was to help him stop the guests’ complaints”. By embracing the very reason why people complained and RE-positioning the Hans Brinker Hotel around it . . . the very same weakness became the hotel’s #1 strength and market attractor! That, is very, very cool.
The Extreme Experience . . . Became a Book!
There’s now a book out that details the story of this benign little traveler’s hotel. Yes, the story of the hotel is that much of an inspiration — even if the rooms and food and fellow guests are touted not to be so good. Imagine. Take an extreme position. Find the angle to promote. Promote it (uh, heads up folks . . . that still takes some funding to pull off!). Enjoy the activity you generate as a result. Amazing. Amazing and true!
- Don’t try to all things to everyone . . . BE YOURSELF — flaws and all — there’s a market for everyone . . . you just have to find it
- Once you’re clear about who / what YOU are . . . your ideal market will begin to be seen with increasing clarity
- However you position yourself, go for the EDGE . . . the EXTREME EDGE . . . to STAND OUT from the crowd of ‘me-too’ competitors
- If your MESSAGE is aligned with your MARKET . . . your MISSION will be ‘magical’ to the very prospects you want to attract
Until next time . . . All the best,